Red Hill hosting top collegiate players

By: corthing

It sounds like fun and games and celebrations mixed successfully with keen competition and mighty fine shot-making.

The State Farm Collegiate Players Tour moves into Red Hill Country Club from Monday through Wednesday, but the reception and talk and autograph signing begins Sunday evening at the Best Western Inn and Suites in Ontario.

Tournament director George Fisher and Donna Caponi, the personable LPGA Hall of Famer who won 29 pro events, will be there greeting players, sponsors, agents, guests, volunteer workers and anybody who shows up to promote the tournament.

“We’re planning to give young players (age 17 to 24) a truly remarkable experience, one they’ll remember all their lives,” the enthusiastic Fisher said Tuesday. Fisher, a State Farm agency field executive from Upland, and his staff are largely responsible for bringing the tour to the Inland Valley.

After the hand-shaking, the golf itself starts Monday when scramble groups will play in a “pro-am” type format at Red Hill, featuring 36 of the top collegians. The remaining 60 players will be practicing, taking a close look at the 6,578-yard course as they prepare for the 54-hole stroke-play challenge, which begins Tuesday with two rounds.

“And the Wednesday 18-hole shootout will really be exciting,” Fisher said. “They’ll be playing for a top-10 finish to qualify for the CPT Nationals in Dallas, Texas.”

Tent City also goes up for Monday’s pro-am in the middle of Advertisementthe course. The beneficiaries – the Children’s Fund, Kiwanis, Shriners, and Soroptimists – will pitch welcoming and refreshment tents, all meant to spread good will and fellowship.

“Our field now is full, 78 men and 18 women,” Fisher said, “and there are some great stories. Like Austin Grey of Palm Springs, a U.S. Marine who returned to College of the Desert and won the state championship in May.

“We’ve got 18 players on the waiting list hoping to get in. This is our second year in California, and it looks as though it will be a great one.”

Valley players, sensing a chance to compete on a championship level and advance to the finals in Texas, have turned out in droves. The list includes eight from Rancho Cucamonga: Rovonta Young, Rito Armento, Yang Bai, Anthony Padilla, Cameron Barcinas, Shane Favinger, Kurtis Ward and Dan Beck. Also entered are Ryan Thomas, Claremont; AC Congo, Fontana; David de Silva, Chino Hills; Austin Green, Upland; Mark Guzman, La Verne; Edward Belk, Redlands; Cameron Buckley, Loma Linda; and Eric Cross, Riverside.

As Fisher said, “They’re in for a remarkable experience.”

Shot for the ages

In early May, three weeks before his 84th birthday on May 28, Louie Perez of La Verne fired off the perfect shot, an ace, his first ever hole-in-one.

“It was at San Dimas Canyon, the fifth hole,” Perez said Monday. “It’s 178 yards, and I normally come up short with my driver. This time my shot hit the edge of the trap on the left, and skidded off and rolled into the cup.

“I couldn’t see the ball go in, but the other guys did.”

After 70 years of golf, Perez had pulled off the best shot of his life.

“I didn’t get much out of it,” Perez said with a smile. “The golf course gave me a little certificate, but that was it. It was a great thrill though – finally.”

Perez, a World War II Navy veteran, began playing at the old Mountain Meadows course in Pomona.

“It was just nine holes then,” he said, “a wonderful layout with that clubhouse high on the hill.”

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